For information: To receive an update from Network Rail on progress with the Oxfordshire Connect Programme. A copy of the slides is attached.
The Partnership received a presentation from Claire Mahoney, Industry Programme Director, Greater Oxfordshire Area, Network Rail. This set out an update on the Oxfordshire Connect rail programme and included references to the improvements to Oxford Station, East West Rail and the reopening of the Cowley branch line for passenger traffic.
While members welcomed the progress made with the Oxfordshire Connect Rail Programme to date, they, nevertheless, raised several questions/points that they hoped would be taken into consideration going forwards:
Councillor Wood referred to the level crossing on the East West Rail route close to Bicester Village Station. As East West Rail became operational and rail traffic grew, the amount of time during which the crossing was closed would increase and have an impact on the roads. Network Rail and East West Rail, therefore, needed to consider how they would address this matter.
In response, the Partnership was informed that the issue of the crossing would be examined by East West Rail and that a variety of options were currently under consideration. Oxfordshire County Council would also have the opportunity to feed into this process.
Councillor Thomas made mention to the second stage of the redevelopment of Oxford Station. While the planned improvements were very much welcomed, it was important to recognise the disruption that would be caused to the local road network while they were being undertaken. She, therefore, highlighted the importance of Network Rail consulting with local community groups. Councillor Thomas also stressed the need, as part of the redevelopment of Oxford Station, to integrate rail and bus services.
In addition, she expressed her hope that Grove Station would be reopened.
The Partnership was informed that contact had/was being made with local community groups. They were also told that the issue of integrating rail and bus services was to be addressed via a bus operator plan, which would be consistent with the principles of the ‘first mile, last mile’ concept of journeys.
In relation to the feasibility of reopening Grove Station, members were told that while it did form part of the wider Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study, it was not currently funded.
Councillor Leffman commented on the importance of maintaining a focus on the encouragement of active travel when considering the changes to Oxford Station. She, therefore, questioned whether there remained a proposal for a significant car park on the site. This sentiment was supported by Councillor Hollingsworth, who also made the case for the minimal level of car parking provision.
Councillor Leffman also noted that the portion of East West Rail currently under construction was not to be electrified. Accordingly, she asked what plans there were regarding electrification in Oxfordshire.
Members were told that an active Oxford Station Master Plan was being developed – with input from both Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils. This Plan would establish the transport requirements of travel to and from the station. Several scenarios around parking would be considered (including options around reduced provision) but no decisions have so far been taken.
In relation to East West Rail, while the route was not currently electrified, infrastructure was being put in place to help support electrification if funding became available.
In response to a question from Miranda Markham, the Partnership noted that the provision of high-speed crossovers would make it easier for rail traffic to move and change direction. This would help in reducing journey times.
Councillor Hollingsworth highlighted the importance of the reopening of the Cowley branch line to passenger traffic. He mentioned that the accessibility of significant developments in both Oxford and South Oxfordshire to public transport would be improved by its reopening. In addition, it would also provide an opportunity for public transport to be the primary method of travel to local employment sites.
RESOLVED: That the update on the Oxfordshire Connect rail programme be noted.